Weather Watch: What’s in store for the rest of winter?

  • by Michael Dukes, director of forecasting at MetDesk in Wendover

Winter has so far been all about high winds and heavy rain, rather than low temperatures, and as we are approaching winter’s mid-point, the big question is whether that is set to change?  

Last winter you may remember that December and early January had also been mild, before the wind swung round to the east and we ended up with a very wintry end to winter and one of the coldest Marches ever known as winter seemingly never ended.

Even by Easter there was still snow around the local area and in Chesham, Easter Sunday dawned with a low of -6.9C.

Long range forecasting is notoriously difficult (who could forget the Met Office’s BBQ summer?) so the following comes with the usual caveats, but the signs are that there won’t be anything nearly as dramatic this year.  

The Atlantic weather pattern looks set to dominate for some time to come with wind and rain at intervals.

Of course short cold spells are still likely at times and it would be an unusual winter without at least one half-decent snowy spell, but it does look like that overall the rest of winter will be near or above the seasonal average.

Looking further afield, this year’s new buzzword seems to be the polar-vortex.

Last week North America was hit by a staggering cold spell with bone-numbing values widely below -20C and wind-chill equivalent temperatures touching -50C.

The polar vortex of course is nothing new.

It’s an area of low pressure high up in the atmosphere that usually sits over the heart of the pole.

Swirling around this vortex to the south, is the jet stream - the ribbon of strong winds at 30,000 feet that controls much of the weather we get here in mid-latitudes.

When the vortex is strong and persistent, very cold air builds up at the pole and is effectively trapped.

This was the case earlier in the winter, but last week the vortex split in two allowing a surge of exceptionally cold air to move south through North America and also Siberia.

There is an old wives tail that suggest American snowy weather heads our way a week or two later, but meteorologically this is nonsense as any cold air spreading eastwards towards us from the USA is dramatically warmed as it passes over the Atlantic.


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